Sailor Jerry

“A Sailor Jerry tattoo was characterised by bold unwavering lines with a refined use of colour and amazing detail (the riggings in his clipper ship tattoos were nautically accurate). His one-of-a-kind work combined America design and traditions with Asiatic colour and sensibilities. His visionary style is revered to this day.”

The women in Sailor Jerry style tattoos and drawings have a pin-up style, some like the one above also had an ‘Island Girl’ style. These images will have been primarily tattooed on sailors and may have acted as a ‘souvenir’ of their time in the Navy.

They have simplistic faces but still give the confident, pin-up attitude and are posed in classic pin up manners. The images kind of strip images down to the bare minimum, so they’re simplistic but not so much it becomes crazily cartoon-like. This would make the images quicker and easier to tattoo.

The images’ sepia tone gives it a timeless, what we would call ‘vintage’ nowadays. The colours used in the images are limited because only 4 tattoo inks were available at that time. Something i particularly like about the images is the shading, it gives a soft quality to the images and prevents it looking so flat, as there is a fair amount of block colours used. The colours also make the images look lighthearted and fun as warmer reds and browns were primarily used in the images.

These pictures use simple & direct iconography, making them readable. For example the ‘Sailor Beware’ image above shows icons of sex, alcohol and death all in one image, I find this similar to ‘Man’s Ruin’ images which usually also include some form of gambling.

The kind of style is still used by many tattoo artists nowadays, they have more of a ‘vintage chic’ element to them now rather than a ‘cheap and cheerful’ sailor tattoo quality.



discussions with my dad


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